SWEET, SWEET, NOSTALGIA
The original Wasteland released over 25 years ago in 1988. To put that in perspective, that is five United States presidents, seven Olympics and six console generations ago. Perhaps the greatest legacy of the original game was the Fallout franchise. It was supposed to be Wasteland 2, but a feud with EA forced a name change. Finally we have a true sequel to the original game and a game that can proudly stand with the PC-RPG greats.
Wasteland 2 tells the story of a group of Desert Rangers created by you, the player, and their struggle to survive and thrive after nuclear weapons destroyed civilization generations before. You are faced with many difficult choices and have to closely manage things like health, water and ammo lest the wasteland claim you. Your party doesn’t have much personality (such is the price for customization), but the world and it’s denizens have it in droves. The world is dark, strange, and often a little bit funny. Despite being able to get a solid 50-plus hours out of a playthrough, the vast array of options,twists and turns your story can take will almost certainly warrant a second playthrough.
If you are looking for shiny, modern next gen visuals you may be disappointed. Part of Wasteland 2’s charm is the fact that it looks like an HD remake of Fallout 2. This is completely and totally appropriate since, in a different world, that may have been the case. I especially liked the opening cutscene and some of the death animations. Despite evoking the look of a simpler time, some of the ultra-violent deaths are on par with the most brutal fatalities in Mortal Kombat, bloody mess indeed. I did find my view annoyingly obstructed a few times by inconveniently placed rocks or trees, but for the most part the environments were well done and looked about what you would expect out of a nuclear holocaust.
My early concerns about the voice acting turned out to be unfounded. Some of the characters just sounded a little bland and tired. I was a bit put off by this at first and then I realized that this fit those characters perfectly. A tired, old, cowboy reduced to a desk job when he probably planned on dying in battle is not going to sound like an action hero on a murder spree. This is a weary world, full of worn out people (cue Mad World).
The combat in Wasteland 2 is strategy RPG at it its finest. It is as bloody as it is entertaining. The wide range of skills available to your character means that you have to maintain a delicate balancing act to cover for your team’s weaknesses. It can be a bit frustrating early on when guns misfire and jam frequently and some of your less-combat oriented characters may struggle to keep up. You earn skill points quickly enough to counteract this, however, and I soon found myself splattering bandits and wildlife alike across the desert sands with ease. It was super satisfying the first time I blew the torso off a bandit and his legs stumbled forward a few feet before toppling over. It is intense, brutal and satisfying.
Managing, distributing and picking up loot was one area that I noticed a major improvement from the early days of PC-RPGs and even the newer Fallouts. You only have to click on one body to loot everything on screen. You can decide who gets said loot manually or use the distribute buttons. It is equally easy to redistribute items later, just click the item and then click on the face of the character you want to give it too. The inventory system could have been a huge stumbling block for the team and it was handled perfectly.
The remainder of the game consists of travel and exploration. There are A LOT of traps, alarms, locked doors and hazards. It was here more than anywhere that I felt the sting of not having access to every skill. While I like the familiar character creation system, it is impossible to fully cover everything, especially all the non-combat and conversation skills. I felt as though the game was treating me a bit harshly in a few of these scenarios. You also have to remember to select the character with the skill you need every time you want them to use it. Personally I had some trouble remembering who had which abilities so it would have been nice if the game could send in your most able party member at those times. It wasn’t a huge hindrance, but I did have to make sure I had extra medicine around.
The Verdict: 8.7 out of 10
As a strapping young lad, my parents believed consoles were the devil so I grew up on PC games, and strategy RPGs were my favorites. Wasteland 2 captures everything that was great about the games of the 1990s. It’s like coming home again, like meeting an old friend or having your grandma bake you cookies. It feels like I remember those old PC games felt. Many of them don’t hold up very well and their flaws show glaringly with age, but Wasteland 2 was built with the benefit of that experience so it doesn’t suffer from that affliction. I can’t even count how many times it turned what started out as a sigh into a “Huh, they fixed that”. If you have a PC that can run it, you should be playing this game.
Mike Bertrand is an Associate Writer for MONG and looks forward to spending much more time exploring the ruins of the American south west. Scavenge his Tweets up @SurvivalHorible.